Constitutional Space for Cities Conference

Constitutional Space for Cities Conference

Wed, 07 Apr 2021 - Thu, 08 Apr 2021

Toronto, Canada

More information

Organized by: Massey College


Cities are drivers of the world’s economy: they are home for most of the world’s population and create a large percentage of its’ wealth. Nevertheless, municipal governments struggle to invest in appropriate infrastructures and necessary services, leading to considerable gaps in affordable housing, public transit, and social services. This conference, on “Constitutional Space for Cities” and its’ associated papers, will seek to understand and explain why … and propose paths forward for Cities in Canada.

Many have suggested that Cities’ legal vulnerability has prevented them from engaging in long term financial or social planning. Because they depend on support from other governments (provincial, state, regional, and federal), Cities are unable to fully develop long-term programs and infrastructure. Cities struggle to respond to their communities’, such as climate change and massive social inequalities.

The diagnosis that Cities (particularly those in Canada) suffer from their “low” constitutional status is not new. The traditional axiom that “municipalities are creatures of the province” has been at the core of legal and constitutional understanding for several decades. In recent years, whether after forced amalgamations or imposed governance changes, there have been calls for change, calls for constitutional amendment, and calls for “City Charters”. These demands are ultimately asking, “what are Cities for, how do we measure their success, and whether international models can serve as inspiration”? The answers to these questions aim to re-imagine the legal and administrative design of the Canadian constitutional order.

We invite proposals for papers, to be presented at the 2021 Constitutional Space for Cities Conference and for contributions to an edited book collection or legal journal special volume.

We invite abstracts considering the following themes:

  • What are Cities for?;
  • History of Cities in Canada, in particular around Confederation;
  • History of the Legal and Political Treatment of Cities;
  • Principles of Federalism and Cities: Subsidiarity and Co-operative Federalism;
  • Cities, Fiscal Responsibilities, and Intergovernmental Arrangements;
  • Cities and Indigenous Relationships;
  • Cities and Regional Development;
  • Constitutional Amendment to Increase Powers to Cities;
  • Cities and Change;
  • Case Studies.


Submissions are invited from scholars of all ranks, including doctoral students.


The Convenors intend to publish a selection of papers in an edited volume and/or in a special issue of a law journal. The Convenors may also seek partnerships with online forums to disseminate substantially shortened and popularly accessible versions of papers.

An invitation to participate in this Conference will be issued to a participant on the following conditions:

  • The participant agrees to submit an original, unpublished paper, ranging between 5,000 and 6,000 words, consistent with the submission guidelines issued by the Conference Convenors;
  • The participant agrees to submit a pre-Conference draft no later than 7 March 2021;
  • The participant agrees to submit a full post-Conference final draft by 31 May 2021;
  • Attendance at the Conference on 7-8 April 2021 (in person or by video conference).

Submission Instructions and Notification

Interested participants should email biographical information and an abstract of no more than 500 words by 1 September 2020 to on the understanding that the  abstract will form the basis of the pre-Conference working draft of a minimum of 3,000 words to be submitted by 7 March 2021. Scholars should identify their submission with the following subject line: “Constitutional Space for Cities - Abstract Submission.”  

Successful applicants will be notified no later than 1 October 2020.


Participants’ travel costs (economy class travel and accommodation) and conference registration fees will be covered.


Please direct inquiries in connection with this Conference to: